Reviews:: Spanish Prisoners Songs to Forget

I got an email from Leonid - aka Spanish Prisoners - that said "friend of Hezekiah Jones" in the subject line. Now, if I was running a secret society, that just might be the secret code word to get in. Naturally, I assumed that Leo's output would use the same spare arrangements and folk simplicity, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

Spanish Prisoners new record - Songs to Forget - relies on lo-fi, sonic experimentation to grab your ear. From the opening wind-blown chimes and guitar notes of where god does his laundry until the closing swirling piano/electronics outro of ballad of an unfolding, Leo never let's you feel comfortable. Where god does his laundry stretches the confines of folk music, with meandering sounds that surface over top of the vocal lines. The break down uses a summery combination of xylophone and percussion to add a surprising warmth to minimal track.

I'm not sure if this makes sense, but his songs push the limits of listening but never stray too far, despite all of the instrumentation featured. You wouldn't call any song traditional: I mean, he adds drum machines and synth pulses to some among them are killers which are very pleasing to the ear, but the instrumentation, hushed spoken words and electric flourishes all make this so much more than another folk/electro number. The beautiful strings and gentle cymbal washes that add the support for the double vocals and simple guitar strums on mantequilla are instantly rewarding. Leo seems to know when to pull the reigns and tighten the structure and when he can really run free.

He's shows yet another side on the folk anthem, song of the weary. It's got elements of Appalachian sing-alongs and the blues, but the electric feedback that crackles in the distance is the most interesting addition to the track. The contrast it provides to the slow drawn strings really draws you in and makes you wonder what else he has in store. As it turns out, the album is all over the map stylistically. For some it might be a turn off, but for me it was a refreshing, complete listen. The slacker rock that shows up on a thousand zimmermans doesn't fit the path he's following, but it gives the record the kick start you want.

I think that's why I like this record so much. Despite the challenging arrangements - the creaks, the flourishes, and the risks he takes - the results glide by effortlessly. Whether it’s the blues influence on periwinkle blues or the Dylan-esque charm of how the fallen fell (I have to point out that even this "simple" song add a nice rhodes and feedback), Leo seems comfortable giving his own spin on the elements we all love. The record never stumbles, and you can't say that about many experimental artists out right now.
MP3:: song of the weary
MP3:: some among them are killers

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